Vast- Nude (456 Entertainment)
review by Derek Perduta

Track Listing

1. Turquoise
2. Thrown Away
3. Don’t Take Your Love Away
4. Be With Me
5. Lost
6. Winter In My Heart
7. I Need To Say Goodbye
8. Japanese Fantasy
9. Ecstasy
10. Candle
11. I Can’t Say No (To You)
12. Desert Garden

The year was 1998. My local hard rock station began playing a song called 'Touched' by a band named Vast. Never heard of them, but the tune rocked. Soon followed a second track called 'Pretty When You Cry'. Another rocker. My attention came to focus on Vast, it was time to see who these guys were...

Turns out that Vast, as all-encompassing as that sounds, is actually the brain child of one man: Jon Crosby. That first album was quite literally close to being a one man show; Jon sings, writes lyrics and music and is an accomplished multi instrumentalist. A gifted musician with a knack of combining musical styles, tossing elements from different genres into a blender and producing some spectacularly fresh sounds.

The debut album released by Elektra records, titled 'V.A.S.T' (acronym for 'Visual Audio Sensory Theater'), remains one of my favorite albums from the 90's. This was a decade in rock dominated by the sound known as grunge with pictures of scrubby looking fellows on the covers of popular music magazines. In my opinion, by 1998 when Vast hit the scene, grunge was a tired beast desperately in need of a vacation. For me, Jon's music put a fresh spin on rock, his tunes containing Beatle-esque moments, grunge, electronica and even classical elements in the form of string sections with the addition of samples (mostly Gregorian style chant) thrown over the top. A classic debut, but likely to be under-appreciated for all time.

The year was 2000. A long overdue sophomore effort by Mr. Crosby hits the shelves called 'Music For People'. I can describe it in a single word: uninspiring. The 'sophomore curse' you ask? Not likely. I have no doubt that some of the freedom Jon had on the first album turned into a request by Elektra to 'make something radio friendly'. Well, doesn't mainstream music always end up being about radio hits? I think a fairly standard result came from that experiment: failure. It seems to me that bending an artist's will towards something they are not is the quickest way to get something that just doesn't work. Commission Da Vinci and tell him he can only paint in stick figures and see what you get. 'Nuff said.

Time goes by during which Jon splits from Elektra records. In 2003, two online-only demo albums, 'Turquoise' followed closely by 'Crimson', were released. 20 total tracks from which a new third album would be culled. Clearly the split from Elektra had reinvigorated Jon's style. The freshness and originality that made the first album so good was evident in these demos. Even in raw form these tracks had a depth of sound that was missing throughout 'Music For People'.

Somewhere during this time comes 456 Entertainment (a new label co-founded by Carson Daly of MTV fame). The first release on this new label is to be the third Vast album simply titled 'Nude'. It had been a long time since that debut I loved so much, with several years of mediocre Vast tunes to fill the void. Would 'Nude' be worth the wait?

I'll say this up front. It is not the masterpiece I consider the album 'V.A.S.T' to be. In the same breath however, let me say that nor is it the drab collection of tracks known as 'Music For People'. Jon has veered back on course to musical grounds he is familiar with, into areas where he alone forges tracks in the distinct Vast style.

The first couple tracks are full of crisp energy, great choruses, with great sampling that just need to be heard to be understood. A ballad follows, a pleasing track with piano taking the lead and a silky smooth string section accompanying it. A simple song with a simple lyric and message, a la Vast. Track 4, 'Be With Me, is closest to anything on the debut album. The intro sample is reminiscent of a couple old tracks, with a pulsing bass beat kicking in during the chorus. Somewhere in there too is a string section that just floats through the same space as the rest of the instrumentation and somehow just belongs there. A real pleasure. The rest of the album follows in this vein, mixtures of different styles and sampling that prove the debut album was not a fluke. A solid effort, much appreciated after all this time holding 'V.A.S.T.' in such reverence.

Jon's unique musical vision gives Vast an edge over many of the 'alternative' bands in the rock community today. As the 'Nude' tour gets underway, I can hope that the music will reach some new ears and get more of the attention that it deserves. I'll be looking for my city on the tour itinerary!

Official Website:

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